Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been hospitalized and is receiving "necessary medical treatment" in Tashkent, according to the country's Cabinet of Ministers.
In a statement published on August 28 in the official state newspaper, Gazeta, the cabinet said Karimov’s stay in the hospital would "require a certain amount of time for medical assessment and treatment."
The statement did not elaborate on Karimov's medical condition or provide a reason for his hospitalization.
Karimov, 78, is the oldest of the Central Asian presidents. He has been ruling the former Soviet republic with an iron fist for more than 25 years.
He is known to have health issues -- including previous reports of a heart condition and respiratory ailments.
But the government has never previously issued a statement about his health.
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service began receiving unconfirmed reports on August 27 that Karimov had been seriously ill for several days.
Reports about Karimov’s ill health are difficult to verify, since information in the country is very tightly controlled.
The president was last seen on state television on August 17 meeting South Korea's interior minister.
No Obvious Successor
He had been scheduled to make a public appearance in Tashkent on September 1 at celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence from the Soviet Union.
Karimov has no obvious successor, raising questions about the long-term stability of the landlocked country that has never held an election judged free and fair by international monitors.
Uzbekistan -- which borders each of the other Central Asian states, as well as Afghanistan -- is the most populous country in Central Asia with some 30 million people.
Karimov rose to power in 1989 when he was elected first secretary of the Communist Party of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.
He declared Uzbekistan an independent nation in August 1991, as the Soviet Union headed toward collapse, and subsequently won the country’s first presidential election. He was reelected three times with around 90 percent of the votes, according to official results.
Karimov has used referendums to extend his term in office, while neutralizing the secular political opposition and eliminating all opposition media from the country.
Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, and Gazeta.uz